The need for educational reform

 Educational reform with real goals

All it takes is a few minutes of searching educational reform on the Internet to come up with nearly a hundred plans for what should be included in reform. As a college educator and in my opinion, what we expect from public education needs to be redefined. Instead of focusing on social engineering, which has been a goal of the Progressive and Leftist movement in America since the 1870s, American education needs to get back to the basics of teaching with the goal of either the student being ready to enter the workforce or being ready for higher education upon graduation. I do believe that at the end of eighth grade, student should be tested – those who possess the academic skills and the desire to go to college should be placed in a high school education program that is designed to prepare them for college-level academic work. Students that are undecided about attending college should be given an academic plan that includes a balance between vocational courses and college preparation courses. Students who either have no desire to attend college or do not have the academic ability to go to college should be given an educational plan that prepares them for the job market. There should be no stigma attached to blue-collar jobs as there has been since the early 1990s. Instead of supporting the vocational education student, as a junior high school teacher in 1999, I watched fellow educators – teachers – put down those who do not want to go into higher education. To be blunt, the American economy could not function without blue-collar workers. The American college campus cannot exist without the tax dollars generated by blue-collar workers. For far too long, the academic world has looked down upon what has been traditionally seen as the “bread and butter” of American society.

Within the vocational education program, the senior year of high school could resemble an internship where the students are placed within a supporting business where they apply hands-on learning to what they have studied in the classroom setting. This would allow students, who have taken classes in welding, to be able to get an apprenticeship and gain real world experience at minimum wage. Their efforts would be immediately rewarded with each paycheck and they would learn how to work within the business world while having the benefits and protection of being a student. Upon graduation, the vocational education student would have not only a high school diploma but experience that can be placed on a resume. I honestly believe this would benefit the American small business sector, the student, and society as high school students would be graduating prepared for adulthood and the job market for their area.

Instead of diverting tax revenues into Head Start and in-school daycare for students, these resources could be better spent in providing on-line courses. While it was a noble idea to avoid penalizing the young unwed high school age mother, for the most part, the program has failed with ever-increasing demand for services as if just by having these services on campus encourages teenage pregnancy. While teenage pregnancy has been a problem within the nation since the beginning of the 20th century, it has become a serious issue. What we are doing is not working and I do not believe it will be solved on the high school campus. This is an example of the failure of social engineering in an attempt to create what was considered as a fundamental right to an equal education and the no-consequence lifestyle of humanist secularism. In reality, our very understanding of childhood – children having children – is flawed. Once a young man and a young woman have a child, our society should demand they take on the responsibilities of their decisions. They, by either design or by accident, have entered the world of adulthood and parenthood. It is not the responsibility of the taxpayer or the local school to provide anything beyond the basic educational needs, to include fine arts and sports. Studies have indicated that the fine arts and sports programs actually increase the grade averages of students who are involved in those programs. I will be the first to admit that for many people, this “benefit” has become something that is expected to be provided and has become enshrined in the public school system. Nothing that does not directly add to the educational curriculum should ever be provided at taxpayer expense.

Educational reform can no longer be ignored if the United States is going to experience any kind of economic revival. The nation needs a workforce that is capable and diverse. It needs well-educated people for the white-collar opportunities and it needs well-trained people for blue-collar opportunities. It needs a workforce that is prepared for the challenges of the future and is ready to meet them.

Alan Simmons

Alan Simmons is an adjunct instructor of history at Henderson Community College. He has been teaching at the college/university level since 2004. Within the scope of his degrees, his areas of emphasis are U.S. foreign policy, public policy history, political history, and U.S. history.

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